An Animated Attack on Sanitation Issues

Posted by Tobin Hack

Tackling the  problem of developing world sanitation head-on.Waterborne diseases like diarrhea will never be sexy, pet causes. Nonetheless, an eighth of the world's population lacks access to safe drinking water, and 2.5 billion people live without proper sanitation. Women in developing countries spend hours each day collecting water, slums are strewn with "flying toilets" (plastic bags tossed right into streets), and 443 million school days are lost each year to water-related illness."At a global, political level, and certainly at cocktails parties, people don't want to talk about the fact that the poor are defecating in open fields or into plastic bags," says Patricia Dandonoli, the former president and CEO of the nonprofit WaterAid America, part of the global WaterAid network. (Dandonoli recently left WaterAid.) To make the discussion more palatable, WaterAid conceived Adventures of Super Toilet, an animated short that's been screened on local TV in Nigeria and in classrooms in India. The cartoon teaches kids about hygiene through the tale of a squishy, germy villain named Vinny the Poo, a flying Super Toilet, a hip DJ called Soapy Hero, and the dainty Driplette who reveals creepy, crawly parasites in water.Working primarily in rural Africa and Asia, WaterAid partners with local governments and NGOs to install simple, affordable, and environmentally sustainable water systems, including rainwater harvesting, hand pump wells, and solar disinfection. Since its founding in 1981, WaterAid has reached 12 million people and is improving the lives of a million more each year. Its most common installation, the rope pump well, requires little more than a rope, a bicycle wheel, and a gasket. When WaterAid leaves a site, it sets up a local "management committee" to maintain the system and price water fairly so it can benefit even those living on a dollar a day. In countries like Madagascar and Tanzania, WaterAid even helped develop national water and sanitation plans. "We're there to help and provide a safety net," says Dandonoli, "but ultimately the responsibility resides with government."Photo courtesy of WaterAidReturn to interactive site